Gut Check: What Equine Microbes Reveal

Microbes found in the gut of horses and ponies are key to their wellbeing, though the link between the two is not well understood. A study that used fecal samples from 35 Welsh Mountain pony mares over the course of two years is suggesting that obesity may have a greater effect on gut microbes than age.

Dr. Philippa Morrison and her study team evaluated if the differences in the fecal microbiome in horses were associated at all with obesity, age or insulin dysregulation. In humans, a reduction in diversity in gut microbes has been related to both obesity and aging.

The study used older, obese and healthy ponies in the study; all ponies were fed the same hay-based diet. Interestingly, gut microbe increased in obese ponies–the opposite of which has been seen in obese people—and increased in older ponies–the opposite of what is seen in older people and in similarly ages horses.

These findings could mean that microbiome changes associated with age occur later in ponies than in horses or it might mean that the microbiome shows only what is happening in one part of the digestive tract of equines.

The study team hopes that further research will determine how gut microbiomes can be used to assist in the care taking and welfare of older and obese horses and ponies.

Read the full study here.

Read more at HorseTalk.

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